What does it actually mean in Pilates and Yoga?
First of all, what exactly is your ‘edge’?
I’ve been talking to clients recently about their ‘edge’ and everyone has a different opinion. The more I’ve been talking about it, the more it’s become clear that everyone has their own opinion and none of these opinions are wrong.
People generally start this discussion by admitting how much they ‘push’ themselves (or don’t) into discomfort, how much they ‘push’ past the ‘lazy stage’ into the ‘my breathing is short’ or ‘my muscles ache’ stage. In Pilates and the style of Yoga I teach, I remind them that we aren’t doing cardiovascular training, so your breathing effort isn’t really tested in this way, and we never really work the muscles in fatigue in Pilates (then you’re not really doing Pilates! (In short: the targeted muscles switch off, larger muscles kick in= not Pilates).
So, if we aren’t ‘pushing’ to the edge of our breathing capacity through cardiovascular training and we aren’t ‘pushing’ our muscles to the ‘edge’ so we can feel them tiring, what ‘edge’ are we actually reaching?
I’ve tested my clients on what reaching or working to ‘their edge’ means to them and we’ve had some really interesting conversations around this. Once discussed, the running theme that comes up is:
- Mental edge
- Working from the inside- out.
Once we have discussed this topic further, it is generally agreed that we are working to reach our edge from the inside-out, putting in full capacity and effort to all movements.
I have to agree with this. For me, ‘working’ the body comes from the inside-out. Connecting to your centre (core) and then reaching the energy through the body to the most out-stretched part (fingers, toes and top of the head). There is a difference between lifting your arms out to the side with bent elbows and floppy hands compared to lifting your arms out to the side, whilst reaching them apart, like they are being lengthened out of your torso, fingers and elbows engaged. Doing this properly means you will feel the energy not just in your arms, but also across your shoulders, maybe in your centre.
This engagement can be increased by focussing on opposition. Using this position of standing with arms stretched out to the side as an example, the opposition here is not only between both hands and sets of fingertips but there also another energy line from your grounded feet up to the crown of your head.
When I engage my body in this way, I feel I am working to my edge and this is what I mean when I ask for more energy in my classes!
This is possible whether you are rehabbing or coming to class for general fitness.
‘Your’ is the key word here. Because your edge will be different to the person next to you and that is why it is important to be mindful in class and be connected to your body, otherwise you cannot truly understand how your body works.
There is a difference between pain and discomfort. Pain should absolutely be avoided, in fact your body will do it’s best to avoid pain, your body will respond automatically, it will ‘jump’ you out of a movement that brings you experienced pain. But discomfort is a wonderful place where our inner strength is discovered and our outer strength can be developed.
It takes full mindfulness to observe the body through movement, to learn exactly how it is working and make all necessary, often minute, corrections to movement patterns and alignment that means the body is working intentionally, thoughtfully and at its full capacity.. It’s edge!
I believe that ‘pushing’ yourself is not a healthy way to see results. You might ‘push’ to run a bit harder or faster, great. But ‘Pushing’ implies that you disconnect from your mind and that is not necessary to see the results you desire. In fact, if we don’t listen to the body when it whispers, it will have to scream and no one wants injury.
Some of the healthiest athletes, with the fewest injuries practise visualisation and other mindful techniques as a solid part of their training, thus reducing the risk of ‘pushing’ their bodies into injury and having to take time out to recover. The body will always bite back if you push it too far.
Next time: More on why discomfort can actually be good for you.